Top 10 Protest or Socially Conscious Songs from the ‘80s – The Way it Is by Bruce Hornsby and the Range

“The Way it Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range

by Robert Mishou

There are several songs in this list that I could have easily put at the top, but this one gets that spot. I saw Bruce Hornsby and the Range in November of 1986 when the band opened for Huey Lewis and News; this was the only song that I knew by them, but their performance blew me away. They ended their set with this song and it sounded as good as it does recorded (with a little longer piano solo). In this song Hornsby present situations and prejudices in American society. The first is:

Standing in line marking time–
Waiting for the welfare dime
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes
Just for fun he says “Get a job”

Today, I am still extremely upset at this rich guy who has the audacity to say this to the unfortunates just trying to get by. Wait, it’s not done yet:

They say hey little boy you can’t go
Where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do

Now, in addition to economic biases, we add racial prejudice – lovely. Now check out how Hornsby combines the two situations:

Well they passed a law in ’64
To give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far
Because the law another’s mind
When all it sees at the hiring time
Is the line on the color bar

All of these verses are framed with an answer, no a cope out, really. Unfortunately, these situations and occurrences exist – and the answer lies in the chorus. The way many people excuse these deplorable situations is simply with the excuse, “That’s just the way it is.” As Hornsby recognizes, this is not an answer and we should not settle for such a response. Things do not have to be this way and we do not have to accept it. If we continue to accept these things because it has always been that way – if we settle for this, then nothing will even change, nothing will ever improve, we will never truly be equal.

There it is, my first list in a series of list. These are my top ten favorite ‘80s songs that have a social conscience. It is a reminder that in the ‘80s, just like today, we need to slow down and look out for others in the world. Not everyone is living in a great situation and these songs remind me that I am very lucky. I grew up lucky and still lead a life that is fortunate. I play these songs for my children so they can see that not everyone is like them or as fortunate as they are.

Quote of the Day: The Princess Bride

Inigo Montoya: Is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.
Westley: Have you ever considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts.

Happy 64th Birthday to Mandy Patinkin!!!

Remember That Song: 11/30/16

Can you name the artist and song:

On the floor of Tokyo
Or down in London town to go, go
With the record selection
With the mirror reflection

Last Song: “Come Go With Me” by Exposé from the album Exposure (1987)

Is it right (is it right)
Hold me tight (hold me tight)
When you look into
My eyes in the light

Top 10 Protest or Socially Conscious Songs from the ‘80s – All She Wants to Do is Dance by Don Henley

All She Wants to Do is Dance by Don Henley

by Robert Mishou

As promised earlier, Don Henley is back. I put this song higher on this list not because I like it better than End of the Innocence, rather it is more clearly a protest song. The most memorable part of this song is the chorus and that rhythm guitar. It is that simple chorus “All she wants to do is dance” that is repeated many, many times. I think that this serves to get the song’s message across in a strong manner. With all of the things going on around us like:

They’re pickin’ up the prisoners
And puttin ’em in a pen . . .
Crazy people walkin’ round with blood in their eyes . . .
Wild-eyed pistols wavers who ain’t afraid to die . . .
Well the government bugged the men’s room
In the local disco lounge

We still have the inclination to do nothing. We know there are problems out there, that shady dealings go on and on, that we are in danger even, but too many of us say nothing or do nothing; we are content with just letting things go on so we can stay absorbed in our own little worlds, oblivious to danger or violations to human rights. Henley exudes a sense frustration that so many of us are willing to remain silent and not do anything unless it affects us directly. The song ends with this unbelievable lack of concern:

‘Cause all she wants to do is dance
And make romance
Never mind the heat
Comin’ off the street
She wants to party
She wants to get down
All she wants to do is
All she wants to do is dance
And make romance
All she wants to do is dance

Remember That Song: 11/29/16

Can you name the artist and song:

Is it right (is it right)
Hold me tight (hold me tight)
When you look into
My eyes in the light

Last Song: “Fortress Around Your Heart” by Sting from the album The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985)

Great job Jim (@JimVilk)!!!

We walked through its streets in the afternoon
As I returned across the fields I’d known
I recognized the walls that I’d once made

Top 10 Protest or Socially Conscious Songs from the ‘80s – Russians by Sting

Russians by Sting

by Robert Mishou

I am an enormous Sting fan. I got hooked on him with the Police’s album Synchronicity. I own and continually listen to the entire Police and Sting catalog because of his songwriting abilities (are you seeing a theme here?). This song caught my attention because, like most of us living in the ‘80s and the Cold War, I was convinced that nuclear war was inevitable. In this song Sting speaks directly to my fears and urges those in power to consider the innocents. Sting echoes the situation during this period of the Cold War:

In Europe and America there’s a growing feeling of hysteria.
Conditioned to respond to all the threats
In the rhetorical speeches of the Soviets.
Mister Krushchev said, “We will bury you.

This resonated with me because I was fully aware that there were Russian missiles pointed at the American base I lived on and that we had just as many missiles pointed at them. It is Sting’s chorus to this song that really hit me then, and now:

We share the same biology, regardless of ideology.
Believe me when I say to you,
I hope the Russians love their children too

Sting does not place blame solely on the Russians, the Americans also play their part in this conflict:

There is no historical precedent
To put the words in the mouth of the president
There’s no such thing as a winnable war,
It’s a lie we don’t believe anymore.
Mister Reagan says, “We will protect you.”
I don’t subscribe to this point of view

The sound of this song has a foreboding feel to it and it still haunts me a it today. So far, I am very thankful that enough leaders seem to take Sting’s message to heart and show that we still love our children enough to avoid nuclear annihilation.

Quote of the Day: The Breakfast Club

Richard Vernon: You’re not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out will be you.
John Bender: Eat my shorts.
Richard Vernon: What was that?
John Bender: Eat… My… Shorts.
Richard Vernon: You just bought yourself another Saturday.
John Bender: Ooh, I’m crushed.
Richard Vernon: You just bought one more.
John Bender: Well I’m free the Saturday after that. Beyond that, I’m going to have to check my calendar.
Richard Vernon: Good, cause it’s going to be filled. We’ll keep going. You want another one? Just say the word say it. Instead of going to prison you’ll come here. Are you through?
John Bender: No.
Richard Vernon: I’m doing society a favor.
John Bender: So?
Richard Vernon: That’s another one right now! I’ve got you for the rest of your natural born life if you don’t watch your step. You want another one?
John Bender: Yes.
Richard Vernon: You got it! You got another one right there! That’s another one pal!
Claire Standish: Cut it out!
Richard Vernon: You through?
John Bender: Not even close bud!
Richard Vernon: Good! You got one more right there!
John Bender: You really think I give a shit?
Richard Vernon: Another! You through?
John Bender: How many is that?
Brian Johnson: That’s seven including when we first came in and you asked Mr. Vernon whether Barry Manilow knew that he raided his closet.
Richard Vernon: Now it’s eight. You stay out of this.
Brian Johnson: Excuse me sir, it’s seven.

Happy 57th Birthday to Judd Nelson!!!

Remember That Song: 11/28/16

Can you name the artist and song:

We walked through its streets in the afternoon
As I returned across the fields I’d known
I recognized the walls that I’d once made

Last Song: “One” by Metallica from the album …And Justice for All (1988)

Now that the war is through with me
I’m waking up, I cannot see
That there’s not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now

Top 10 Protest or Socially Conscious Songs from the ‘80s – Lives in the Balance by Jackson Browne

Lives in the Balance by Jackson Browne

by Robert Mishou

I did not know much about Jackson Browne other than his song “Somebody’s Baby” from the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack. Then a friend talked me going to Denver to see Browne. I was skeptical, but fell in love with his music. He is a great songwriter and this song is the most biting on this list so far. Browne does not pull any punches:

You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you’ve seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war
There’s a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interests run

I do not think much explanation is needed here. Many times these protest songs carry plenty of weight with the lyrics, but the chorus is seen as less important and does not have that typical catchy chorus feel. This, though has both meaning and a catchy sound:

And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

Simple, yet effective. This type of in your face protest song bothers some people. While I understand why this is, I like to think that we need these type of songs to get us to reexamine our beliefs and policies. Things might not change, but they might if change is needed.